Trueman Contra Mischief And Ill-Informed Half-Truths About The Doctrine Of God

…one of the justifications for Protestants today revising and rejecting the classical theism of Nicaea and subsequent Nicene developments is the assertion that the Reformers did not subject the doctrine of God to the same rigorous examination in light of scripture as they did other doctrines, such as justification or the sacraments.

Those who make such an assertion demonstrate an incompetent grasp of history. Yes, it is true that the Reformers did maintain the classical doctrine of God. But we cannot conclude from this simple fact that this was because they did not subject it to their view of scripture as the norming norm.

…It is mischievous because the argument that the Reformers did not sufficiently reform the doctrine of God is typically deployed by someone who wants to justify their own significant revision of the classical position while yet seeming to be orthodox and Protestant. The move is thus rhetorically very clever: It allows the one repudiating the content of the Reformers’ theology to present that repudiation as if it is simply a more faithful and consistent application of the Reformers‘ method. In short, he claims to reject the Reformation doctrine because he honors the Reformation spirit.

It is ill-informed because it appears to be ignorant of the pattern of doctrinal discussion in the Reformation. The early Reformation writings of numerous Reformers – most notably Melanchthon and Calvin – do reveal significant hesitancy in deploying the fine-tooled technical language of classical Trinitarianism.

Carl Trueman, “A Most Mischievous and Ill-Informed Half Truth” 11 February 2019

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    • A very good piece that draws attention to the clever, misleading tactics of academics that make a name for themselves by casting doubt on the very confessions that they swore to support and uphold. Instead, they are under mining them with impunity and being rewarded with theological teaching positions and academic titles in our seminaries where they promote their heterodox views by passing them on to the next generation of pastors. But it shouldn’t come as any surprise as Peter warns in 2 Peter 2: 1-3 and Paul in Acts 20: 28-32. If we believe our confessions summarize the true and important doctrines of our faith, we should all be diligent to study them, so we really know them, so we can judge any message we read or hear by how it conforms to the Reformed Standards. That is how they are meant to be used, as our first line of defense against theological wolves, even in our churches.

  1. Angela: It is the belief that the PCA’s only seminary is the source of most of the error infecting the PCA, which has caused one of the presbyteries to submit an overture to the upcoming General Assembly that proposes that the PCA sever its ties with the school.

  2. The overture came from a conservative presbytery so I personally don’t think it has much chance of passing. But it at least has the effect of putting the seminary on notice.

  3. It has become apparent that one of the great evils of modern evangelicalism is the doctoral program where dissertations are expected and innovations must be produced.

    • I can’t see anything evil about expecting a dissertation for a doctorate, but does a faculty of theology/divinity really expect ‘innovation’? What is required for a doctorate is original research, not novelties, is it not?

    • Chris,

      I don’t entirely agree. Certainly there are inconsequential or self-indulgent or projects that are done purely for the sake of innovation but that’s not why doctoral dissertations should be written nor why, I suppose, most are written. The best projects are written with an eye to filling a gap in the knowledge in a field. They are written with an eye to serving others, to making a contribution, to advancing learning, and, in a seminary setting, to helping the church.

      Sometimes the business of filling in gaps in field can appear to be a quest for novelty when it’s really just serving the needs of other scholars.

      There are scholars who publish outside their fields of competence who or think they’ve discovered something new in theology. There are newer ways of expressing old truths but I doubt that there are genuinely new insights. It’s particularly problematic when scholars are incorrigible or do their work without due regard to the confession and vocabulary of the church.

  4. It seems to me that in the Reformed churches there is a disconnect between what we profess to believe in the Reformed Standards and what is actually accepted and tolerated in our churches. Is it gullibility: if a “Reformed” teacher says it, we accept it? Is it ignorance: we don’t really know and understand our confessions well enough to able to determine if what we hear is orthodox? Or is it just complacence: we just don’t care enough to risk a controversy over doctrine. We adopt resolutions about what is orthodox, but we just won’t actually confront the false teaching. Whatever the reason, we have seen some Reformed denominations go the way of broad, liberal and modern evangelicalism, and one has to wonder about the trajectory of the PCA. Even in the remaining Reformed denominations, heterodox teachings seem to be tolerated rather than dealt with. In Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen could be writing about the present situation in our churches:
    “In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.” P 177 Eerdmans

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